A survey by the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons has found that stigma still prevents many women talking about menopause symptoms that impact their work and seeking the adjustments that would make the difference.
Most women do not tell anyone at work that they are going through the menopause despite the vast majority finding that symptoms impact how they feel at work, according to a Women and Equalities Committee survey.
The survey, based on over 2,000 responses, was commissioned as part of the Committee’s ongoing Menopause and the Workplace inquiry and found that 31% of respondents reported taking time off work due to menopause symptoms, which included problems with memory or concentration, anxiety/ depression and headaches. (75%, 69% and 41% of all respondents respectively).
Despite this, less than a third of respondents told anyone at work and just under 11% requested adjustments in the workplace due to their symptoms.
Those who did not request adjustments were most likely to do so as a result of stigma, with 26% citing the reason as ‘I was worried about the reaction of others’.
Almost one in five respondents (19%) did not know who to speak to in order to request adjustments, which led to them not speaking up. Of the respondents who did ask for support, those who spoke to line managers felt more supported than employees who reported symptoms to HR or occupational health.
An analysis of qualitative answers found that the support desired by employees ranged from practical measures such as greater flexibility to cultural changes like removing stigma, encouraging openness, education and awareness raising.
Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “I am saddened, but not surprised, by the results of our survey. Half the population will experience menopause, and women of menopausal age are the fastest growing group in the workforce. Yet the stigma is clearly huge.
“If companies want to retain talent and experience, they need to wake up to the reality of menopause. Our survey shows us just how common symptoms which have an obvious impact in the workplace are, and how ashamed those experiencing them feel.
“Yet the survey tells us is that the solutions are in easy reach for most organisations. Much of this is about practical adjustments for employees, and stamping out boorish ‘banter’ that menopause is a ‘women’s problem’ or a joke. There’s a legal, social and economic imperative to support working women through a normal life transition, so we can hold on to role models for the next generation.”
Meanwhile, corporate wellness platform Gympass has created a Menopause Hub offering free lifestyle advice and exercise guidance for women in partnership with WILD.ai and has collaborated with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace to create a free eBook Working Through Menopause to support employers and signpost them to resources, advice and training solutions.